THE 9MM SPRINGFIELD ARMORY SA-35 – A 21st CENTURY VERSION OF THE FAMOUS BROWNING HI POWER

Article by Nick Jacobellis

While John Moses Browning crafted the original basic design, Dieudonne Saive of Fabrique

National (FN), Herstal, Belgium is credited with completing the design that became the now famous

9mm (Browning) Hi Power.  The name Hi Power was assigned to this pistol due to its 13 round

magazine capacity.  Production of the Belgium made 9mm Browning High Power began in 1935. It

was as a result of being produced in 1935, that the Hi Power also became known as the P35.

            During World War II, variants of the 9mm Hi Power were the only sidearm that I can think of,

that were manufactured by both the Allies and the Axis Powers, specifically by the Canadians and the

Germans. The Canadians produced two variants of the “Inglis” Hi Power and the Germans oversaw the

production of the original Belgium made P35. The wartime copy that I once owned, that had Nazi

proof markings, was made later on in the war and was by no means manufactured with the same quality

control standards as the Belgium pistols.  After World War II, the widespread popularity of the P35

resulted in licensed and unlicensed copies of the Hi Power being manufactured in a number of

countries.  Belgium made Hi Powers were also purchased by a number of countries for use by their 

military and police personnel. Production of the Browning Hi Power ended in 2018.

                                               SPRINGFIELD ARMORY TO THE RESCUE

            As of November 2021, you can own an improved version of the original Belgium Browning

9mm Hi Power, by purchasing the Springfield Armory SA-35. Before we get into describing the

Springfield Armory SA-35, let me say that I have been a huge fan of 9mm Hi Power pistols, ever since

the early years of my law enforcement career.  In fact, I was probably one of the few members of the

U.S. Customs Service who was actually issued a Belgium made 9mm Browning Hi Power.  One of the

most famous foreign end users of the 9mm Hi Power was the British SAS. (The British Hi Power was

designated the L9A1.)

            During my career as a U.S. Customs Agent I also owned a pair of 9mm MK III Hi Powers.  The

MK III Hi Power was an improved design, that was ideally suited for law enforcement applications and

concealed carry, because this pistol was fitted with higher visibility fixed sights, very well designed

slide mounted dual safety levers and composite grip panels. The MK III High Power also had a very

utilitarian black epoxy/paint like finish that was corrosive resistant. The MK III Hi Powers were made

in Belgium and assembled in Portugal.

            Despite the age of this design, I always found the Hi Power to be an exceptionally reliable and

very accurate high capacity 9mm pistol, that has excellent ergonomics. Best yet, for a full size all steel

high capacity service pistol, the Hi Power is also sleek and slim enough to be carried concealed.

                                                                       THE SA-35

            The day I received the SA-35 to test and evaluate it took a matter of seconds for me to see, that 

Springfield Armory did an outstanding job of manufacturing a high capacity 9mm pistol, that improved

on the original Belgium/FN design. I reacted this way for several reasons, to include the fact that the

SA-35 is equipped with a very user friendly set of high visibility fixed sights. The SA-35 sights are a

well executed “tactical” design, due to the use of an easy to acquire white front dot, that is positioned in

a suitably elevated dovetailed front sight post. The rear sight is also very “high speed,” with a flat front

surface, that makes it possible to execute a one handed tactical reload.  This can be accomplished by

removing the empty magazine, inserting a loaded magazine into the magazine well, before placing the

front flat portion of the rear sight against a rigid flat surface and applying enough downward force to

cycle the slide and load the chamber.  The portion of the rear sight that faces the shooter is all black and

has a very open U shaped aperture, that presents an excellent view of the front sight and your target. A

well designed thumb safety is also positioned on the left rear side of the slide. Clearly, the safety on the

SA-35 is noticeable improvement over the original Hi Power safety.

            The SA-35 is also equipped with a “bobbed” or round hammer, as opposed to the more standard

or traditional hammer spur.  This is an interesting feature, because the “bobbed” or serrated round

hammer can prevent some end users from having the extended spur on a traditional hammer impact the

web of their hand under firing conditions.  This is commonly known as “hammer bite.” A bobbed or

round hammer is also often preferred by some end users, when they carried a Single Action (S/A) pistol

like a Hi Power, concealed and close to their body. 

            Just like the Belgium made Browning Hi Power, the slide on the SA-35 is also very easy to

manually cycle. This is an important point, because being able to easily operate the slide on a pistol

that is used for personal protection and home defense is essential for your survival.

            Unlike the original Browning Hi Power, the SA-35 does not have a magazine disconnect. This

means that the SA-35 can be fired when a round is in the chamber but no magazine is in the pistol. 

Should you ever find yourself in a situation when you are compelled to execute a tactical reload, you

will still be able to fire your SA-35 should the need arise, while you eject the magazine and reload the

pistol with a full or partially loaded magazine.  The lack of a magazine disconnect also allows the

operator to easily eject magazines from the SA-35. Speaking of magazines, the SA-35 comes with one

15 round magazine and will reliably operate with original 13 round Hi Power magazines, including

original Parkerized magazines, as well as the superbly made blue steel MecGar magazines. 

            The SA-35 is manufactured with a match grade stainless steel barrel, a fully forged and heat

treated CNC machined frame and slide, all of which serves to enhance the strength, ruggedness and

durability of the design. The SA-35 is also fitted with a super smooth factory tuned Single Action

Trigger, an improved feed ramp design and an excellent set of checkered wooden grips.  The metal

parts on the SA-35 are finished in Matte Blue. The overall fit and finish on the SA-35 is superb and

clearly classifies this pistol as a very high quality premium brand combat handgun.

                                                                 SHOTS FIRED

            An assortment of premium brand 124 and 147 grain 9mm full metal jacket and hollow-point

ammunition made by Federal and Speer was used while field testing the SA-35.  In addition to

engaging a metal plate the size of the scoring area on a TQ19 law enforcement qualification target, the

SA-35 was also used to engage a paper target at various distances. 

            Regardless of the ammunition used, the SA-35 was flawlessly reliable, even when this pistol

was operated with Parkerized 13 round Hi Power magazines, that were manufactured in the dark ages

of the 20th Century.  The 13 round blue steel MecGar magazines also worked well in the SA-35, as did

the factory supplied 15 round magazine.

            Original Belgium made Hi Powers are notorious for being very soft shooting 9mm pistols. The

SA-35 retains this quality in every respect.  Incorporating a match grade barrel and a factory tuned

trigger in the design of the SA-35, is also evident by the ease in which this pistol is capable of

consistently delivering precision shot placement.

            While evaluating the SA-35, I utilized two different black leather De Santis Inside the Pants

Holsters, that I have also used to carry my Belgium made Hi Powers. I also own a De Santis Thumb

Break Paddle Holster, that accommodates my Belgium Hi Powers and the SA-35.  Spare ammunition

for the SA-35 was transported and carried in De Santis (leather) Magazine Pouches. For concealed

carry applications and home defense I consistently rely on 124 grain 9mm Federal HST, 147 grain

Federal HST and 124 grain 9mm Speer Gold Dot ammunition.

                                                                   CLOSING REMARKS

            The Springfield Armory SA-35 is a premium brand pistol, that is a tribute to the work that was

originally done by John Moses Browning and Dieudonne Saive of Fabrique National (FN).  Even

though I currently own two 9mm Hi Powers, I was so impressed by the fit, finish and the performance

of the SA-35, I purchased the test pistol.

SA-35 SPECIFICATIONS:

Caliber: 9mm

Trigger: Single Action

Hammer: Bobbed/Serrated Round.

Unloaded Weight: 32 ounces.

Barrel: Cold Hammer Forged.

Barrel Length: 4 5/8 inches.

Overall Length: 7.8 inches. 

Magazine Capacity: 15 rounds.

(will also accept original 10 and 13 round Hi Power magazines)

Construction: All Steel/Forged & Heat Treated/CNC Machined.

Finish:  Matte Blue.

Barrel: Match grade/stainless construction.

Sights: While dot front,

Rear: Flat front/tactical style with a U shaped rear sight.

Grips: Wood/Checkered Walnut.

Nick Jacobellis is a Medically Retired U.S. Customs Agent and a former NY police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent. To date, the author has published over 205 magazine articles and nine action-packed nonfiction, historical fiction, and fiction books: Controlled Delivery Books One and Two, The Frontline Fugitives Books I, II, III, and IV, Buck Banderas U.S. Marshal Books One and Two and A Special Kind of Hero. These books have received 5 Star reviews and are available on Amazon.com (US), and (UK). The K9 Academy is the author’s 10th book. The author was born and raised in Flatbush section of Brooklyn N.Y. and has an BS Degree in Police Science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

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